Shedding Light on Inhumane Conditions for Detained Migrants

24 November 2020

NIF grantee Hotline for Refugees and Migrants has uncovered inhumane conditions at Israeli detention centers where refugees, asylum seekers, and migrants are held. In its latest annual report, “The Detention of Migrants and Asylum Seekers in Israel,” The Hotline found that according to the data of the Population and Immigration Authority, in 2019, 11,465 people were held in these centers, including 370 children and 4,979 women, 24 of whom were held for as long as 18 months. The report is available here (Hebrew).

Refugees, asylum seekers and migrants are held in detention centers for being in Israel unlawfully. It is believed however that the harsh conditions and treatment are designed as a form of pressure to coerce detainees into voluntarily leaving the country. The reality is that some of those detained have legal status to be in the country and have been released after proving so. Others, in the face of harsh conditions, have left the country.

One woman who has worked as a nurse in Israel for 15 years was detained for 15 days with her two small children until she was able to prove that she was in the country legally. Both of her children were born in Israel, “They took away our phones and kept us in a small room,” she said. “We were allowed out of the room for 15 minutes in the morning to get some fresh air and sometimes 30 minutes in the evening. One of the children had toothache, but was not allowed medicine. They were not allowed to call their father. The children were traumatized. We didn’t know how long our detention would last, now they are fearful that at any moment police will break into our home and arrest us again.”

The detention centers are operated by Israel’s Population and Immigration Authority. The Hotline for Refugees and Migrants has collected stories of detainees being blindfolded, tied up and given medication to tranquilize them, and of detainees being routinely humiliated and insulted.

An Ethiopian migrant who was detained on arrival in Israel said, “They took me forcefully tied me up and threw me against a wall. My head was bleeding. I cried and screamed and asked them to stop but they shouted at me that you are breeding here like cockroaches.”

According to Israel’s Population and Immigration Authority, “The average stay in a detention facility in 2019 for families staying here illegally was 15 hours. We again stress that the charges made by families that were in detention centers is a worn out charge based on the desire to make headlines.”